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Fall 2015: Introduction to Digital Humanities – the online course

Update: The HIST680 team was awarded George Mason University's 2015 Distance Education Award for their work on this course.
Update: The HIST680 team was awarded George Mason University’s 2015 Distance Education Award for their work on this course.

This course is the first of three online courses that the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (RRCHNM) has developed, with funding from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, for a new Digital Public Humanities Graduate Certificate. It follows the same shape as my Introduction to History and New Media, moving from digitization to databases, metadata, visualization, text analysis, crowdsourcing and social media, but has been re-imagined to explore digital humanities more broadly, and redesigned for online delivery.


When you begin with a face-to-face course syllabus, the first instinct when developing an online course is to model face-to-face practice using readings, written reflections, and discussion board posts and responses, which fits what it is possible to do in now familiar learning management systems like Blackboard and Moodle. To open up other approaches that took more advantage of being online, this course was built from scratch in Drupal, by James McCartney, JooAh Lee, Chris Raymond, Chris Preperato and Caroline Kelley of of RRCHNM’s Education Division. Over the last year I’ve worked with Kelly Schrum and Jennifer Rosenfeld, the director and associate director of the Education Division, to shape active learning activities as well as the hands-on work with tools that is a hallmark of all our digital history teaching at GMU.  Inspiration for some of those activities has come from Hidden in Plain Sight, the online teacher professional development course that the Education Division has been offering for several years. (More about Hidden in Plain Sight).

The course activities involve using wordclouds as a prompt to reevaluate readings, annotation, tagging, online scavenger hunts, comparative analysis of sites and search results, digitization, and work with Omeka, Voyant, CartoDB and Palladio.

We’re gathering various forms of feedback from this first cohort of students — who include librarians, museum staff, and students in GMU’s History Masters program, and come from Tennessee, Massachusetts, Ohio, North Carolina, West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC — and plan to write up an analysis of the course.

Next semester, the other two online courses in the certificate program, taught by Sharon Leon and Mills Kelly, will launch. They are built in the same Drupal platform, but take different approaches to online delivery.

The HIST680 course site is restricted to enrolled students, so I can’t share it, but I have put the syllabus online.